Beyond the Recession

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"But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes," are Ben Franklin's famous words. It's almost like he was watching the presidential election and economic meltdown along with all of us last fall. It's obvious the money America needs now is going to have to come from somewhere — and Americans are well-known for getting the country out of pinches. It only seems as if the government consistently gets us into them.

Work harder and smarter, and ultimately you are supposed to become successful — something that can be defined in as many ways as there are people. But in this new economic quagmire it seems rather futile to be burning the midnight oil on the premise of making your big play for life's brass ring. Or is it?

You are a motorcycle dealer who knows recessions always come to an end. There will always be motorcycles or at least versions of them used as independent transportation devices. The future channels of distribution may change between manufacturers and retail customers, but there always will need to be points of new-unit delivery along with centers for accessories, service and repair. Let's name some other hard constants that will remain a part of the equation.

THE SALE OF THE UNIT

This process could take place over Skype-like Internet conversations, artificial intelligence sales staff or in the current brick-and-mortar showroom situation. The ginormous retail palaces of today, however, certainly seem expensive and somewhat outdated when you consider most customers do all their shopping for vehicles on the Web before actually paying for and picking it up. To many customers, the destination powersports dealer showroom seems even more useless if no test drives are offered. Don't get me wrong. It's nice to shop in a big seven-franchise store, but is it cost-effective as real estate costs escalate, OEMs schedule more demo rides and customers increasingly use the Web?

RISING FUEL PRICES

The planet's resources are being gradually depleted. Fuel prices have equalized temporarily, but Americans will remember being kicked in the groin by oil producers last summer and likely won't forget it anytime soon. Prices will go up again — soon. The Detroit OEMs also felt the big pinch from consumers who want smaller, better quality and more fuel-efficient autos. Is the Milwaukee OEM listening? The recent scooter surge in sales proves this trend to be true in both the two- and four-wheeled industries.

RIDING IS COOL

Not everyone can or wants to ride a motorcycle, but most have fantasized about it at one time or another. The movies will always glamorize motorcycles ridden by the both the bad and the good guys — and now more and more women, too. Part of the cool factor is that riding makes you feel and appear younger to your peers. The implication here is that motorcycles are like "mobile fountains of youth." Ride more and get younger. Works for me. To whom do I make the check?

GEAR AND ACCESSORIES

Looking the part, being protected, and customizing the machine will always remain part of the experience. In fact, there remains truth to the old adage "Harley Davidson doesn't really sell motorcycles — they sell a lifestyle." Oh! And the motorcycle they happen to build is a necessary part of that "kit" you need along with the chrome and the outfit in order to join the club.

RIDERS DON'T WORK ON THEIR OWN BIKES ANYMORE

Professional service and repair of modern mechanical marvels will need to always exist. The question remains, will they have to be located at the point of the new unit sale, or not? The auto industry lost that association a long time ago. As mechanical sophistication of the products increase, fewer and fewer riders will be able to maintain their machines, necessitating new service businesses which seem to pop up when traditional dealerships cannot handle the volume. How far out is your service department booking appointments?

The news of late may appear somewhat depressing, but just be glad you weren't a mortgage or stock broker. Recessions end and you need to position yourself now for how you want to be positioned when we all come out the other side. People will still have a need to enjoy their lives throughout this ordeal and beyond, and they will need a way to move about the planet in a cost-effective way. The more you can facilitate your value to the community or local riders through this next six to eight months, the more chances you will thrive upon the economy's return. Oh yeah — and prolong death and pay your taxes. Now ain't that what it's all about?

Longtime columnist Eric Anderson is vice president of Scorpion Sports. Contact him at eric@scorpionusa.com or via editors@dealernews.com.